Prisoners of Fate

Posted in Audio by - November 13, 2016
Prisoners of Fate

Released June 2013

‘Prisoners of Fate’ is tasked with finally directly addressing the intriguing aged Nyssa arc that began in the final story of ‘Circular Time’ and that has continued with Turlough and Tegan alongside her since 2010’s ‘Cobwebs.’ Searching for a cure to the deadly Richter’s Syndrome, Nyssa left her young family some twenty-five years ago. With her now-grown son, Adric, continuing her research on the penal colony Valderon, the TARDIS landing on Valderon puts the past on a collision course with the present for more than just Nyssa.

This is certainly not a story for a casual listener, Adric assuming Nyssa is from a time before she gave birth to him due to her rejuvenation in ‘The Emerald Tiger’ and Nyssa trying desperately to keep the Doctor from learning the truth of Adric’s identity because of the events of ‘Circular Time.’ The temporal complexity only begins there, though, as the mysterious Chronoscope allows glimpses into important events of the future and has put an end to crime by stopping the responsible individuals before they even think about performing said crime. This is, of course, a morally reprehensible foundation for justice that ultimately proves to be self-perpetuating, but it nonetheless is an intriguing concept and certainly puts the Doctor in unfamiliar territory when his arrival is expected and the Chronoscope casts blame on one of his friends.

After Nyssa left in 3530, she never returned home, and Adric’s insistence on that fact now makes it a set point, meaning that she never can return to her family and that everyone who has succumbed to Richter’s in the interim- including Nyssa’s daughter- is now forever doomed. The Chronoscope predicted that Adric would find a cure for Richter’s, and his reunion with Nyssa has brought that to fruition, a prediction that Sibor intends to use as leverage against the Empire to ensure her own power. Still, the actual truth behind the events on Valderon is even more complex as Nyssa returns to the past to live alone for twenty-five years in order to reach Valderon after abandoning her family, thus literally splitting history into two.

The story seems to have great fun is setting up a possible appearance of the Master given the indications that a TARDIS is present and given the character’s propensity to show up against the Fifth Doctor. In actuality, though, the Chronoscope is a Type 50 TARDIS, specifically the one the Doctor traveled in before choosing his trusty Type 40. The temperament and will of TARDISes has been alluded to previously, but the idea of the Type 50 feeling spurned after being deemed unworthy to spend centuries exploring the universe alongside the Doctor is used wonderfully, and the imagery of this TARDIS harming itself to break through the Time Lord defenses in order to seek out and get its revenge on the Doctor is superb.

Although Nyssa’s twenty-five year arc ends up feeling like a bit of a contrivance after the story built towards her telepathic conversation with Galen and the resolution makes this version of Nyssa’s fate somewhat unclear, Sarah Sutton is masterful in her portrayal of the character, mining emotions that Nyssa rarely gets to show. Alistair Mackenzie gives a strong performance as Galen and Peter Davison portrays a sad and more humble Doctor than is usual, and both actors play off of Nyssa wonderfully. ‘Prisoners of Fate’ is the second audio story of this fiftieth anniversary year to play around with the mechanics of time following ‘The Wrong Doctors,’ and both have delivered monumental results. ‘Prisoners of Fate’ is audacious enough to tinker with the core mythology of the franchise while also dealing with the old-now-young Nyssa recently introduced, throwing massive amounts of information at listeners in a logical manner that streamlines the complexities through three incredible opening episodes to a satisfying but somewhat more muted resolution that focuses on time and paradoxes more than the characters.

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